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"Irreplaceable" Dragonfly Spreads its Wings in Illinois

A rare dragonlfy is being released into the wild in Illinois. Credit: Mike Ostrowski/Wikimedia
A rare dragonlfy is being released into the wild in Illinois. Credit: Mike Ostrowski/Wikimedia
July 21, 2015

LOCKPORT, Ill. – Ecologists are working to boost the population of a rare dragonfly in Illinois.

The Hine's emerald dragonfly is federally endangered, and is found in just a few states. Researchers at the University of South Dakota incubated eggs from Wisconsin in a lab, and are now releasing them as mature dragonflies into a northeast Illinois forest.

Mike Grimm, a conservation ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, says the idea is to build up the existing wild population so it can withstand disease or any natural disturbances.

"If you have a larger population that has a more diverse genetic makeup, your odds of surviving some natural catastrophe or habitat change are much better," he says.

Like any endangered species, Grimm says the emerald dragonfly is worth protecting.

"It's three- to four-inches long, black with bright green, emerald eyes," he says. "It's quite a beautiful animal, and it has an irreplaceable value as part of our natural world."

Grimm says it takes the commitment of many to make conservation work successful. The University of South Dakota, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations came together for this restoration project.

"This is just another example of one of these collaborative conservation projects that require coordination, time, funding and a lot of skill," he says. "It's a learning opportunity for us."

The dragonflies were raised in a lab for four to five years, and about 20 are expected to be released into the wild.

In Illinois, it's estimated there are just over 300 individual emerald dragonflies. Others are found in Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL